Furio Scarpelli: Award-winning screenwriter whose credits include ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’

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The Independent Online

Furio Scarpelli, usually writing in tandem with Agenore Incrocci, scripted many popular Italian comedy films as well as more serious fare.

Scarpelli was born in 1919 in Rome. His father, Filiberto, was the Futurist founder of a satirical journal and as a child Furio was a talented writer and artist, becoming a satirical cartoonist during the Second World War.After he met Incrocci they began writing scripts and, from 1949 onwards, they wrote over 120 together as Age and Scarpelli. They began with several for the hugely popular comedian Toto, though outside Italy some of their best-known films were in other genres.

Nevertheless, their first international hit was the heist comedy I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958), which won Best Foreign Film Oscar. As well as reuniting them with Toto, it gave an international profile to younger actors such as Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale. Such was its popularity that Age and Scarpelli wrote the sequel Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (1960) though they had nothing to do with an even later sequel, or the Hollywood remakes, Crackers (1984) and Welcome to Collinwood (2002), in which George Clooney played the Toto role.

Although, as with many of their their films, these lightly ribbed the Italian character and the materialism of the post-war economic "miracle", other films were more barbed. Three films tackled the country's entanglements with Fascism, going from the First World War trenches: La grande guerra (The Great War, 1959), through the Second World War – Tutti a casa (Everybody Go Home, 1960) – to Mussolini's rise in La marcia su Roma (The March on Rome, 1962).

At the same time they scripted one of their few foreign productions, the comedy The Best of Enemies (1961) which starred David Niven and Alberto Sordi as English and Italian army officers in the African campaign.

Like other Italian film-makers, in the 1960s they skewered social and sexual hypocrisy. The union drama I compagni (The Organiser, 1963) won their first screenwriting Oscar nomination, with a second for Casanova '70 (1965), a globe-trotting satire at the expense of Italian machismo starring Mastroianni. Sedotta e abbandonata (Seduced and Abandoned, 1964), a teenage pregnancy farce, has remained popular and Signore e Signori (1966) a tripartite portmanteau, shared the Palme d'or at Cannes with Claud Lelouch's Un homme et une femme.

That year also saw another hit, with Sergio Leone's spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo), which helped make a screen legend of Clint Eastwood with a minimum of dialogue.

After their 1960s social satires, they pierced the moral turbidity of 1970s Italy, producing some fine films, though their international profile shrank slightly. In nome del popolo italiano (In the Name of the Italian People, 1971) is a scabrous attack on the justice system.

After almost 40 years Age and Scarpelli parted company in 1985. Scarpelli continued to write separately or with other partners and, with his son Giacomo, he gained a third Oscar nomination, for the sentimental love story Il postino (The Postman, 1995).

Scarpelli continued to work almost until his death and his latest film, Christine Cristina, about an obscure 14th-century poet, which was co- written with his son and two others directed by a first-time director, Stefania Sandrelli, opened in Italy earlier this month.

John Riley

Furio Scarpelli, screenwriter: born Rome 16 December 1919; married (two sons); died 28 April 2010.